The Danger of Reliance on Evidence and Reasons WIthout a Critical Eye

Those of us who see ourselves as thoughtful may distinguish ourselves in our own eyes by loyalty to reasons and evidence as the necessary foundation for our beliefs and behavior.  We look at alternative supporting structures for human action and disparage them. We spend substantial time mentally rebuking those who fail to lean their decisions on reasons and evidence.

But an article in this mornings New York Times shouts to us the limits and dangers of both reasons and evidence. 

There are reasons and then there are reasons; There is evidence and then there is evidence. Neither clearly shouts to us: Here is what you should believe. Indeed, any scoundrel or ideologue can cobble together an argument relying on reasons and evidence. Furthermore, the reasons and evidence the person uses can create a seductive patina luring us in directions we might have otherwise never considered.

In brief, reasons and evidence are extraordinarily valuable tools for shaping our lives and beliefs. However, tools are only as valuable as the ethical, logical, and practical standards deployed while putting the tools to work.  And those of us who are so proud of our epistemological reliance on reasons and evidence need to remind ourselves about  the dangers of the narrative fallacy. Just because we can craft a story substantiated by reasons and evidence does not by itself suggest that we have anything more than a hypothesis.

 

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